The Winder-Barrow High School Lady Bulldogg cross country team capped another successful season with a sixth-place state finish.
The Lady Bulldoggs, coached by Amanda Partee-Manders, were once again led by senior Caitlin Connell, who was coming off an individual region championship.
Connell was fifth overall at the AAAAA state race.
“The state course was a bear,” Partee-Manders said. “The girls knew that they were going to have to fight. Just to make it to state is a huge accomplishment and we wanted to leave nothing out there in terms of effort.”
All of the WBHS Lady Bulldoggs finished in the top third out of 263 runners Saturday in Carrollton.
“We were going for a top four finish to be on the podium, but it didn’t quite fall into place for us,” said coach Michael Lofton. “Caitlin ran an amazing race. After the first mile she was about 20 back. By the third mile she was battling for fifth place. The hills on the course were an advantage for her since we work on doing well on them.”
Whitley Kennedy, Anna Dean, Amber Palermo, Isabelle Martin, Kianna Perez and Dacy Potts were the top runners for the Lady Bulldoggs Saturday.
“Caitlin’s fifth place finish was a shining achievement,” Partee-Manders said.
Fellow 8-AAAAA member Flowery Branch finished third at the state meet after the Lady Falcons were second to WBHS at region.
“A top 10 finish is an accomplishment,” Lofton said. “We are very happy with our efforts. The course was very tough and had changed a lot from last year. There were a lot of turns and steep hills. If you are in a pack and get pushed out then the amount of distance you have to cover increases.”
The WBHS boys also took a top 10 finish. Senior Skyler Lowe paced the Bulldoggs followed by Nelson Lofton. William Wright, Alex Martinez, Chris Lee, Brad Burgess and Tony Rowden rounded out the top runners for the WBHS boys.
“I am really proud of the boys,” Lofton said. “They have really worked hard. It was very important for Skyler to go out on top.”
Wright was the team’s No. 1 runner for most of the season. Lowe was the top runner at region and state.
Nelson Lofton had been steadily improving and capped the season by finishing second for the Bulldoggs.
Coach Lofton said WBHS runners Connell, Kennedy, Dean, Lowe, Martinez and DJ Smith had been with him since they were in the seventh grade. The coach recruited the athletes to try cross country and the recruitment turned out to be a major success.
When the athletes entered high school, Lofton began coaching the varsity cross country program.